It would be glib to suggest that Japanese actor turned left-wing political leader Taro Yamamoto was tapping into his experiences starring in cult favorite Battle Royale when he caused a skirmish Thursday in Japan’s parliament. But the legislator is unquestionably willing to throw down for his causes.
A wild scene unfolded in the upper house of Japan’s legislature Thursday when Yamamoto made a desperate attempt to block the passage of a controversial immigration bill by hurling himself at fellow legislators who were in the process of trying to pass the piece of lawmaking (see video below).
Yamamoto had to be physically restrained by fellow lawmakers as he repeatedly leaped at the desk where party leaders were debating the measure. The mayhem lasted several minutes, amid loud heckling from both majority and opposition lawmakers, The Japan Times reports.
Yamamoto’s antics brought the debate to a brief halt but failed to suppress the bill, which is expected to receive final approval on Friday.
The bill is designed to overhaul Japan’s immigration rules and curb the country’s long-term detention of asylum-seekers in notoriously harsh conditions. It has the support of Japan’s ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party, as well as two opposition parties. But progressive lawmakers have mounted a fierce opposition, arguing that it doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting refugees’ rights and fails to improve the conditions of asylum seekers who have already been detained in Japan. The issue has been highly charged since 2021 when a 33-year-old Sri Lankan refugee died while detained at a Nagoya immigration center, sparking outcry over the harsh conditions and practices of such facilities.
Yamamoto began his career as a TV actor in the 1990s, appearing in a series of hit Japanese dramas before moving on to film work. He is best remembered by international film buffs for his starring performance in the ultra-violent cult thriller Battle Royale (2000), which is widely considered the precursor to Squid Game.
Yamamoto continued working in film up until the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011 when he publicly resigned from his talent agency to devote himself to protesting the Japanese government’s handling of the disaster. He was elected to Japan’s House of Councillors in 2013 and has gained notoriety for his unconventional methods — which have included breaking protocol to appeal to Japan’s Emperor about the country’s nuclear policies, launching a large protest of a controversial state secrecy law, and calling for the cancelation of 2020 Tokyo Olympics so that funds could be used to support the country’s pandemic relief measures for the needy. He is the leader and founder of Reiwa Shinsengumi, a left-liberal populist political party.